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Russian Treasures / Nigel Short, Tenebrae


Release Date: 01/28/2014 
Label:  Signum U.k.   Catalog #: 900   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Alexander GrechaninovSergei RachmaninovNikolai GolovanovNikolai Kedrov,   ... 
Performer:  Nicholas Madden
Conductor:  Nigel Short
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 1 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

With this disc Tenebrae becomes the latest ensemble to launch its own label, Bene Arte. It appears that they’ve followed the example of Paul McCreesh and the Gabrieli Consort (Winged Lion) in forming an alliance with Signum Records. The new label could hardly have been launched more auspiciously since this is an outstanding recital of Russian liturgical music.

However, I do have a couple of minor disappointments. In his very interesting notes David Nice starts off by pointing out the important role that Tchaikovsky played in the late nineteenth-century revival of interest in Old Church Slavonic music among Russian composers. Since Nice discusses Tchaikovsky’s contribution in some detail it’s mildly surprising to find that
Read more the sole representation of Tchaikovsky in this programme is The Crown of Roses, sung to Geoffrey Deamer’s English translation: would not one or two movements from either of his large-scale liturgical works, the All-Night Vigil or his Liturgy of St. John Chrystosom have been more suitable? The other slight regret is that five of the eight pieces by Rachmaninov come from his All-Night Vigil. It’s great to hear the music especially when sung as well as is here the case, and it fits into the programme most logically. However, Tenebrae have already given us a fine recording of the complete work, admittedly a few years ago (review). A little less Rachmaninov, fine and important as his liturgical music is, might have allowed the programme to range even more widely, as it does on their concert programme, ‘Rachmaninov and the Russian Tradition’, which features a good number of the pieces here recorded but also some that are not on this disc.

There will be no more negative comments from me, however: I enjoyed this disc from start to finish. All the Rachmaninov pieces are very well done and although it’s invidious to single out any of the Rachmaninov performances I relished the famous Nïne otpushchayeshï with its plangent tenor solo, here very well delivered by Nicholas Madden: the well-known bottom B flat is securely and sonorously negotiated by the Tenebrae basses. Finer still, arguably, both as a composition and as a performance, is Bogoroditse Devo, which is given a splendid, heartfelt performance here. I love Blazhen muzh with its haunting, frequently recurring ‘Alleluias’, which is radiantly done by Nigel Short and his excellent singers. Vzbrannoy voyevode brings the programme to a triumphant, exuberant end. Since I expressed some mild regret thatThe Crown of Roses had been included - but only to the exclusion of any other Tchaikovsky music - I should record that the Tenebrae performance of this lovely little piece is expressive and beautifully shaped.

Other items in the programme may be less familiar but they are, without exception, well worth hearing. It will be noted that Nigel Short has selected three settings of Otche nash (the Lord’s Prayer). Apart from the Rachmaninov setting, one is by Nikolay Golovanov, previously known to me only as a somewhat volatile conductor; I wasn’t aware that he was also a composer. His setting of Otche nash is a good one though his Slava Ottsu (Yedinorodnï) is even more impressive; it’s mainly beautiful and subdued though it achieves a short, passionate climax just before the end. The setting of Otche nash that moved me most, however, is the one by Nikolay Kedrov. Kedrov, a well-regarded baritone, formed a vocal quartet and composed this for them to sing. The music has no pretensions: it’s gorgeously simple and in tone it’s gently radiant. The piece is a little gem and it’s devotedly sung by Tenebrae.

I was strongly impressed by Chesnokov’s Tebe poyem. The music seems to start in awestruck darkness and as it unfolds it’s as if a light is being gradually shone more brightly, though the light remains gentle as candlelight. The singing is superbly controlled, which it needs to be if the piece is to make its effect properly. It’s interesting to hear a piece by Viktor Kalinnikov, the sibling of Vassily Kalinnikov, whose First Symphony is admired by many devotees of Russian music. Alexander Gretchaninov’s Nïne silï nebesnïya opens the programme wonderfully. This is a beautiful piece, mostly slow and reverent but with some moments of fervour. It’s sung magnificently by Tenebrae.

In truth every one of the eighteen pieces in this programme is sung superbly. Time and again the ensemble offers exquisitely shaded and wonderfully controlled soft singing. Yet when the music requires fervour they supply it in spades. The blend and balance of the choir is beyond reproach and their Russian pronunciation sounds most convincing. This programme offers further confirmation that Tenebrae is one of the finest groups of their kind currently before the public.

The recorded sound is excellent, the natural resonance of the venue adding further lustre to the singing. The documentation is very good.

All in all, this is a most auspicious launch for Tenebrae’s new label.

– John Quinn, MusicWeb International Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts: Nïne sílï nebesnïya by Alexander Grechaninov
Conductor:  Nigel Short
Period: Post-Romantic 
Venue:  Church of St Augustine, Kilburn 
Length: 5 Minutes 40 Secs. 
2.
All-Night Vigil: Nïne otpushchayeshï by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Nicholas Madden ()
Conductor:  Nigel Short
Period: Post-Romantic 
Written: 1915; Russia 
Venue:  Church of St Augustine, Kilburn 
Length: 3 Minutes 33 Secs. 
3.
All-Night Vigil: Priidite, poklonimsia by Sergei Rachmaninov
Conductor:  Nigel Short
Period: Post-Romantic 
Written: 1915; Russia 
Venue:  Church of St Augustine, Kilburn 
Length: 2 Minutes 7 Secs. 
4.
Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom: Heruvimskaya pesn (Cherubic Hymn) by Sergei Rachmaninov
Conductor:  Nigel Short
Period: Post-Romantic 
Written: 1910; Russia 
Venue:  Church of St Augustine, Kilburn 
Length: 4 Minutes 28 Secs. 
5.
Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom: Tebe poyem (We Hymn Thee) by Sergei Rachmaninov
Conductor:  Nigel Short
Period: Post-Romantic 
Written: 1910; Russia 
Venue:  Church of St Augustine, Kilburn 
Length: 2 Minutes 20 Secs. 
6.
Slava, Endinorodnii sine (Glory, the Only Begotten Son) Op 5/5 by Nikolai Golovanov
Conductor:  Nigel Short
Period: Modern 
Venue:  Church of St Augustine, Kilburn 
Length: 3 Minutes 58 Secs. 
7.
All-Night Vigil: Blazhen muzh by Sergei Rachmaninov
Conductor:  Nigel Short
Period: Post-Romantic 
Written: 1915; Russia 
Venue:  Church of St Augustine, Kilburn 
Length: 5 Minutes 37 Secs. 
8.
Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom: Otche nash (Our Father) by Sergei Rachmaninov
Conductor:  Nigel Short
Period: Post-Romantic 
Written: 1910; Russia 
Venue:  Church of St Augustine, Kilburn 
Length: 3 Minutes 53 Secs. 
9.
Otche Nash (Our Father), for choir by Nikolai Golovanov
Conductor:  Nigel Short
Period: Modern 
Written: Russia 
Venue:  Church of St Augustine, Kilburn 
Length: 3 Minutes 29 Secs. 
10.
Otche nach (Our Father), for chorus by Nikolai Kedrov
Conductor:  Nigel Short
Venue:  Church of St Augustine, Kilburn 
Length: 2 Minutes 34 Secs. 
11.
All-Night Vigil: Vzbrannoy voyevode by Sergei Rachmaninov
Conductor:  Nigel Short
Period: Post-Romantic 
Written: 1915; Russia 
Venue:  Church of St Augustine, Kilburn 
Length: 1 Minutes 46 Secs. 
12.
Heruvimska pesma (Cherubic Hymn) (Serbian) by Orthodox Chant
Conductor:  Nigel Short
Venue:  Church of St Augustine, Kilburn 
Length: 4 Minutes 35 Secs. 
13.
Radiant Light, Op. 73 by Alexandr Kastalsky
Conductor:  Nigel Short
Venue:  Church of St Augustine, Kilburn 
Length: 2 Minutes 50 Secs. 
14.
Tebe Poyem (We Praise Thee) by Anonymous
Conductor:  Nigel Short
Venue:  Church of St Augustine, Kilburn 
Length: 3 Minutes 38 Secs. 
15.
Rejoice O Virgin by Sergei Rachmaninov
Conductor:  Nigel Short
Period: Romantic 
Venue:  Church of St Augustine, Kilburn 
Length: 3 Minutes 6 Secs. 
16.
Children's Songs (16), Op. 54: no 5, Legend by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Nigel Short
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1883; Russia 
Venue:  Church of St Augustine, Kilburn 
Length: 2 Minutes 54 Secs. 

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